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December 15. 2013 9:46PM

Easements for Manchester Water Works to be considered by city officials

MANCHESTER — The Committee on Land and Buildings will consider a request to approve and recommend two easements to Water Works property involved in an agreement with Auburn.

Tonight’s meeting gets underway at 6 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers at City Hall.

Manchester Water Works settled a dispute over payments in lieu of property taxes to the town of Auburn with an agreement to reduce the tax bill and tie payments to the inflation rate.

Water Works owns 7,200 acres in the Lake Massabesic watershed, 4,000 acres of it in Auburn. Under state law, a water district is liable for the amount of property tax a private owner would pay on the same land. The agreement negotiated calls for the bill paid by Water Works to drop from $680,000 this year to $300,000 over a five-year period.

The agreement is the first under a new state law that allows a negotiated payment in lieu of taxes for land a water district owns in a separate community. The law limits the agreements to a five-year term, which can be renewed for additional five-year periods.

The agreement requires ratification of the final legal draft. Manchester’s payment will fall to $300,000 by 2018, when it will be tied to the rate of inflation, capped annually at 3 percent.

Auburn had claimed the right to bill Manchester $825,000 under a state law that allows the land to be taxed at the average assessment rate for similar land. Water Works Commission members argued against the bill, saying it shouldn’t pay the same rate as owners of property that could be developed, because the commission is charged with ensuring the land remains undeveloped to protect the water supply from contamination.

Under the agreement, Water Works also agreed to continue to lease land to Auburn for a playground, allowing access over the property for future recreational use.

One of the easement requests up for discussion tonight involve a 25-foot right of way, approximately 200 feet long, to enable access to properties where access is now limited by the deficient Griffin Mill Bridge. Auburn agrees to apply to the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) for bridge reconstruction funds, and the easement will continue until the state approves the bridge reconstruction and work is completed.

The second easement involves a parcel of land along Hooksett Road, approximately three to five acres in size, to be used for the construction of a community center, recreational space and playing fields.

Auburn officials and Water Works commissioners will also work with the DOT to potentially create a paved bicycle path along Route 121 (Manchester and Chester roads), and possible stretches of Hooksett Road.

The agreement also provides incentives to ensure the land remains protected even if it is sold in the future.

pfeely@unionleader.com


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